Entrepreneurship goes hand-in-hand with innovation — the ability to produce new ideas; provide better solutions; and pioneer new products. The most successful entrepreneurs are not simply the hardest working, they’re the most innovative. You can hustle and put in 80-hours each week, but if you're not stretching your innovative muscles, you’ll never achieve breakthroughs and success.
From Edison, to Branson, and Cuban, here are 10 ways the most innovative entrepreneurs think differently:
1. They constantly look for patterns.
It’s called Apophenia: the ability to perceive meaningful patterns within random data. It is a pronounced trait among innovative thinkers. Intentionally looking for patterns and drawing connections will allow you to spot potentials for innovations. The ability to "predict" or foresee a problem is highly valuable. Great innovators can see the subtle thread that produces the outlier.
2. They’re brilliantly lazy.
Bill Gates said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Gates could substitute “a lazy person” with “an innovative person.” Innovators will indeed find the best and easiest route to get a project done. It boils down to efficiency. Innovators live by the saying, “Work smart, not hard.” They don't just strive to create the best product, but also the best process.
3. They’re obsessive note-takers.
Your conscious mind (working memory) can only process small chunks of information at a time. With a cacophony of streaming ideas, great innovators are incessant note takers. Thomas Edison left 3,500 notebooks behind at his death.
When Richard Branson revealed a key business tool, it wasn’t a complicated gadget, but an old fashioned notepad. He’s always seeking feedback from flight passengers and cabin crew and using that information to innovate.
Your million-dollar idea can come from anywhere; while you’re waiting for your coffee or getting groceries. Keep a compendium of your ideas, it'll be your trail leading to gold.
4. They preach perfection, but practice progress.
Perfectionism is seen as the bad guy. It can be crippling, but discarding it opens the door for mediocrity. Great innovators still fervently preach perfection, yet they live in the reality of progress. It's a healthy pendulum-swing between the two. They strive for the ideal and get work done in the real. Millionaire trader, Timothy Sykes says to “aim for perfection, but keep firing to make progress.”
5. They're allied with their fear.
“Every one of my successful ventures has faced bankruptcy, come close to losing key employees, or just collapsed along the way. But by welcoming fear you get the benefit of what being afraid brings -- heightened awareness, compassion for others you are working with, and an unbreakable commitment to survive at all costs.”
Fear can enable progress and innovation. When the feeling of fear arises, rather than a fight/flight response, embrace it as an advantageous adrenaline rush.
6. They don’t wait for things to break.
You’ve heard the adage, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?” Great innovators don’t wait for things to break; they’re constantly fixing and iterating. CEO of Selfie Stick Gear Alynah Patel says the key to staying ahead and being a pioneer in your business is to live by the mantra, “It can always be better.”
Rather than wait for a problem and then provide a solution, great innovators find ways to ensure the problem will never even exist.
7. They understand the creative process.
Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, Implementation. Those are the four classic stages of the creative process. One of the most crucial stages, just before the eureka moment is "Incubation." Great innovators find novel ways to nurture this stage of creativity; taking long showers, going for a walk in nature, doing yoga headstands.
Incubation requires mental disengagement. It allows for the unconscious process of synthesizing all the information you've consciously encountered. The conscious detachment results in a "marination" of ideas and then solutions coming “out of the blue.”
8. They pursue multiple streams.
Elon Musk has Tesla and Solar City. Mark Cuban has too many to name, on top of the Mavericks. It’s more than just maximizing income, a hallmark of great innovators is nurturing multiple interests. Just like the creative process, alternative interests overlap and feed off each other. Having multiple projects breaks the psychological-bottleneck and pressure of succeeding in one single venture. It will also expand your breadth of knowledge and overall business acumen.
9. They possess a healthy arrogance.
It may come across as arrogance, but successful entrepreneurs and great innovators are highly confident. When Gallup studied entrepreneurial talent they found that people with high confidence performed better in stressful situations. When others see risk, highly confident and innovative entrepreneurs see opportunity; when others see roadblocks and potential failure, they see victory.
CEO of National Pearl, Emma Schrage says, "A key part of innovation is implementation -- it’s not the first to come up with the idea, but the first to produce it." Having a healthy arrogance helped her take action in a saturated field, and against more "competent" competition.
10. They embrace paradoxical thinking.
Great innovators do not see the world in black and white. While many people come to "either/or" conclusions, they strive to see "both/and." When cell phones only made calls, and music devices only played music, innovators overlooked these conventional boundaries.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great American novelist said it best, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."